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North Dakota abortion ban blocked again by Bismarck judge

Without the injunction granted by a Bismarck judge on Thursday, abortion would have become illegal across the state on Friday.

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Protestors and escorts stand in front of the Red River Women's Clinic in downtown Fargo on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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BISMARCK — For the second time in a month, a Bismarck judge has blocked North Dakota’s near-total ban on abortion a day before it was due to take effect.

In an order released Thursday, Aug. 25, Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick granted a request for a preliminary injunction made by the Red River Women’s Clinic, which was the state’s only abortion clinic until a recent move to Moorhead.

The injunction blocking the abortion ban will remain in effect until a further court order or the end of litigation in the case, Romanick wrote.

The purpose of an injunction is to preserve the status quo and to prevent harm while litigation is pending, and the clinic made more persuasive arguments for keeping abortion legal while the case is sorted out, Romanick wrote in the order.

The clinic's move to the other side of the Red River means it no longer offers abortions in North Dakota, but medical providers and pregnant patients in the state could still be impacted if the ban were to go into effect, Romanick wrote.

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Without the injunction, abortion would have become illegal across the state on Friday.

Clinic director Tammi Kromenaker said she is "relieved and grateful the judge noted how abortion bans are harmful to patients."

"North Dakotans can rest easy knowing they still have bodily autonomy rights," Kromenaker said in a text message.

Kromenaker said she didn't have a definitive answer "about what the future may hold for us in North Dakota."

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Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women's Clinic, on June 24, 2022.
Chris Flynn/The Forum

Attorney General Drew Wrigley told Forum News Service the state is undeterred by Romanick's order, which "temporarily pauses this abortion regulation from taking effect."

"The merits of the law will be reviewed by the courts up ahead, and the Attorney General’s office will continue our efforts to ensure the eventual enforcement of the bi-partisan provision signed into law back in 2007," Wrigley said in a statement.

In 2007, North Dakota lawmakers passed a bill that would outlaw abortion in the state within 30 days if the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The 15-year-old legislation was triggered by the high court’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling in June.

The Red River Women’s Clinic sued the state in July after Wrigley set off a 30-day countdown by certifying the Supreme Court’s decision.

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Last month, Romanick temporarily blocked the ban a day before it was due to take effect, saying that Wrigley's certification came prematurely.

The trigger law would make it a Class C felony for anyone to perform an abortion, unless a pregnant female performs an abortion on herself. A Class C felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Performing an abortion would still be permitted if the mother's life is in danger and in cases of rape or incest, though a provider may still have to prove in court the procedure was justified.

A dozen states have full abortion bans in effect as of Thursday, when trigger laws in Texas, Idaho and Tennessee became active. Abortion bans in a handful of other states have been blocked by the courts.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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